Ask the therapist: How do I stop saying hurtful things that I don’t want to say?

In the “Consulting Therapist” series, I will answer all your questions about mental health and psychology. Whether you are struggling with a mental health condition, coping with anxiety about living conditions, or just seeking the insights of a therapist, you can submit a question. Every other Friday, please pay attention to my answers to your questions in the Healthy Mind newsletter.

Our readers ask

When my wife asks me to do something I don’t want to do, or when she gives me constructive criticism, I turn things around. What I said is not what I meant. Later I always apologized, but I knew I hurt her feelings, and I knew I was ruining our relationship. How can I stop doing this to her?

——Craig, 32 years old

Amy’s answer

This is a healthy sign that you realize that the words you use are powerful. And now, when you use them as weapons, you can see the damage done to your relationship. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to change your behavior and improve your relationship.

Take ownership of your actions

When everyone is calm, sit down and talk with your wife. Explain that you have seen a mistake in your own way. You want to work hard to create positive changes.

Don’t point to your wife. And don’t ask her to communicate with you in a different way.Focus on change yours The behavior is not hers.

Provide an explanation, but not an excuse. For example, you might say, “When my feelings are hurt, I will lash out” instead of “Your tone makes me feel like a bad person.” Be responsible for your emotions and actions.

Catch yourself before you get too angry

When your wife asks questions, it is important to learn to grasp yourself before responding in an unhelpful way.

You may need to breathe deeply and count to 10, or you may need to pay attention to your body’s reaction. Your heart may start to beat quickly, or your face may feel hot.

When your body triggers a stress response, it indicates that you should not say anything—at least not now—and you should take a break from the conversation.

Make a plan together

Develop a plan with your wife to support your efforts to stay calm. The plan may include taking a break or walking away for a few minutes when you feel depressed.

Explain that you don’t want to give up on the problem she is solving, but you need to take action to stay calm so that you don’t have to say something you regret later.

If she doesn’t know the plan from the beginning, she may feel that you are avoiding the situation, or that you are ignoring what she is going to say.

When she understands that you are just taking a short break, and when you calm down, you will come back to solve the problem, and she will believe that it is okay to let you go away without following.

Work for myself

A little self-reflection may go a long way in helping you better understand what happens when your wife asks a question.

Finding out why you became defensive will help. You may find yourself making some incorrect assumptions.

When she asks you to help more at home, do you immediately explain that you are not a good husband? Or when she asks you for help, do you think she asks you too much?

Take a moment to ask yourself, “What does this mean?” When you try to react negatively.

Press Play for advice on dealing with emotions

Hosted by Amy Morin, the editor and therapist of LCSW, this episode of “The VigorTip Mind Podcast” shares a strategy for controlling discomfort in less than a minute.

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Practice healthy communication

Consider whether you have overlooked the problem that arises. When you have these questions, you most likely will not ask your wife these questions. So when she asks a question, you will unconsciously think, “Oh, yes, but this is all the things you did wrong, and I didn’t bring it up.”

Ignoring the problem is not a medal of honor. Pretend that the problem does not exist, and you will achieve nothing.

The important thing is to communicate your concerns when you encounter a problem, not to blurt out a whole set of problems the next time you are upset.

You may spend a few minutes doing housework to distract yourself, or you may go to another room to calm down. When you feel very emotional, don’t try to have a rational conversation.

Talk to your wife about what works, what you want to improve, and what is bothering you. Just make sure to have these conversations when both parties are calm.

If your strategy doesn’t work, ask for help

It takes time to develop new habits. Getting rid of the old model also requires hard work.

If you have difficulty doing it alone, please contact a therapist. Talking to people can make you feel better, and it can also help you improve your relationship with your wife.